Edmonton Oilers Say “Thank You” To OKC In Full Page Ad

The Oklahoma City Barons season ended at the hands of the Utica Comets just a few days ago. Since then it has been difficult to say goodbye to a franchise we have loved for five years, but we have done it, and we continue to be grateful.

Likewise the Edmonton Oilers have said “Thank You” to the team, the fans, the community, and owners that have given us one heckuva a run in their own way.

Via a full page ad (seen below), the Edmonton Oilers have said their thank you’s and their goodbye’s. The ad reads:

“To the great people and fans in Oklahoma City thank you for your dedication to the Barons the past 5 years. Your hospitality and support made our players and staff feel at home and a welcome part of the community.

To Bob Funk Jr. and our partners at Prodigal, we thank you for your commitment, hard work and professionalism in operating the Oklahoma City Barons and putting on a great show every night for the team, fans and community. We couldn’t have asked for better partners in this venture.

Oklahoma City will always have a special place in our heart!

Thank you!

Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club”

The unnecessary gesture here was classy nonetheless. As a fan, I’m appreciative of the statement. And to the Edmonton Oilers we thank YOU for the opportunity.

Dallas Considering OKC: ECHL Rumors Continue

The season isn’t even cold yet for the Oklahoma City Barons, and the rumors of hockey returning to the city are beginning to heat up. With the AHL lumbering its way out of Oklahoma’s capital city, it seems logical for fans to turn their ears towards the earth for signs of future hockey life. The rumblings exist, and you might like what you hear.

Through multiple channels, all within Oklahoma City, it appears that the Dallas Stars are considering a move of their ECHL affiliate to the Sooner state. Currently Dallas has an agreement, which has been renewed nine straight seasons, with the highly successful Idaho Steelheads. History tells us that this agreement typically is renewed in one or two year terms, but comes towards the tail end of summer.

With the Texas Stars in Austin, the regional shift to I-35 for ECHL makes a lot of sense. As evidenced by a sizable crowd for the Stars vs. Oilers NHL Showcase not long ago, there are a bulk of Dallas Stars fans living three hours up the interstate (of which I’m one). Nearly all NHL Stars games are broadcast locally via Fox Sports Southwest, and thus the fan base has had these games delivered to their living rooms for years. The “regional” move is something the Stars organization is wanting to uphold as the AHL footprint boldly moves West. More on that potential grand statement in the coming weeks.

The hole in next year’s ECHL Central Division (Allen, Wichita, Missouri, Tulsa) nearly guarantees that another team will be added by 16-17. All signs point to that destination being Oklahoma City where they historically have had intense rivalries with Wichita and Tulsa during the CHL days.

Tend The Farm has a strict no rumors policy, but we have made an exception here as multiple people “behind the scenes” have inferred that the city is open to new suitors.

We wait for official word – likely not soon – from on high about the potential for a new hockey endeavor to land firmly in Oklahoma City. Until then, summer beckons us.

The Sweater

I have an Oklahoma City Barons sweater.

That sweater is dark navy with copper, white, and red stripes on the sleeve. It has a tight v-neck design that is tailored perfectly for a head, two ears, two eyes, and a mess of hair to squeeze through. The back is stitched with breathable fabric that is perfect for early October heat and late May playoff pushes. The front features a nearly 24″ logo, the traditional Barons mark. The left shoulder has an OKC Barons oil drop, the right the iconic Edmonton Oilers logo. The sleeves are the perfect length, hitting me on the wrist as the radius and ulna meet, but not too far past where the carpals begin. It is comfortable, well worn, easy to clean, and perhaps my favorite article of clothing.

That sweater is torn near the forearm not because it was worn by a warrior grappling with another on the ice. No, that tear came as I was celebrating a Linus Omark game-winner, and the sleeve caught the edge of the armrest in section 202 years ago. There is a stain around the bottom edge where a pre-game Kool-Aid accident nearly ruined my day. The bright red faded to dark brown by the time the puck dropped. It smells like Dreft most of the time, but on some Fridays and Saturdays it becomes a saturated mess. It hugs my body perfectly, and it makes wearing a belt optional. It has been worn with blue jeans, casual dress slacks, shorts, and even a bathing suit one time. I once wore it for 24 hours straight.

That sweater reminds me of moments in time. It was worn the week my second child, a son, was born. I wore it when my father-in-law was being treated for prostate cancer. I wore it to Halloween parties to family get-togethers to places outside of the Oklahoma City limits. At least a half-dozen times I wore it to church. It became a part of my trips to the rink. It encouraged my daughter to get one of her own. I wore it when I was sad. I wore it when I was happy. I wore it when I was angry. I wore it when I was disappointed. I wore it – always – with pride.

That sweater reminds me of people. When I saw someone wearing one of their own I gave a quick “Hi!” or even a wave or nod like motorcyclists do on the highway. As if some unwritten code had been magically woven into the fabric, the person would always return the greeting with a version of their own. The sweater was there when the Cox Center flooded, and people were huddled (team included) in the bowels of the arena. It was there when Teemu Hartikainen injured his shoulder. It was there when the day game was nearly cancelled due to wintry weather. It was there when the Texas Stars beat them into submission. It was there when the Barons returned the favor. It was there when pucks-were-chucked, when kisses were made on cameras, when sumo wrestlers tackled, and humans were bowled. It was there when Shawn Belle was named the first recall in Barons history. It was there when Nelson coached his final game. It survived dollar beer nights (I’ve been told). It was worn by many, despised by some, honored by others, and reviled by few. They were seen in Peoria, San Antonio, Rochester, Houston, Utica, Edmonton, Calgary, and a host of other cities. It was worn by the rich, the poor, the educated, the uneducated. It was bought for boys, girls, men, women, dogs, cats, and other forms of life that needed more hockey in their lives. Whether it was seen on a season ticket holder, a flex plan buyer, a professional, a law man, a contractor, a pastor or a dancer it was always donned with gratitude, never regret.

That sweater reminds me of things it will never see. The Calder Cup Finals, and a crowd consistently large at the Cox Center.

That sweater reminds me of stories. Stories of people who first discovered hockey. About how they fell in love at a hockey game, and are getting married. How it gave them an escape from the “real world”. How it helped heal hurt, and soften the world that is so hard.

That sweater reminds me of hockey players. 155 players to be exact. From Camberon Abney to Teigan Zahn, Kiril Tulupov to Jordan Bendfeld – they all meant something. They were old, young, new, veteran, good, sketchy, fun, dangerous, easy to love, impossible to tolerate, strong, weak, sturdy, injury-riddled, but always cognizant of what that sweater truly meant. They earned the right to wear it, to play in it, to put apart of it through years of hard work.

That sweater tell me that there is more to come. The community that was built around that sweater is strong. It has withstood the test of time, and the disappearance of a hockey team before. It will remain strong through a common bond of hockey love. It might grow faint, but it will never go away. Truthfully it might grow in numbers, as crazy as that sounds.

That sweater will always exist.

That sweater will always be important.

That sweater will always mean something greater than just one person or player.

I love my Oklahoma City Barons sweater. Chances are, you do too.

Utica Wins Game Seven, An Era Ends

Photo via Utica Comets. All rights reserved.

Game sevens are terrific things. Game sevens in the hockey world are even more terrific things. They are tight, sound, atypical protective hockey that somehow becomes wildly entertaining despite often being low scoring. We can’t help ourselves. As human beings we like dramatic theater. Every turn, twist, shot, hit, change, and rush is dissected under a microscope in the blink of an eye. Hanging on every play. Watching with anticipation. Listen for the brightly sound of the whistle. Wondering how it will end. Man, don’t you wish you could bottle that up, store it high on shelf, and pull it out when you needed too?

Game seven of the Western Conference semifinals of the Calder Cup postseason was exactly this.

It would take one goal to seal the deal, and it belonged to Utica and the clutch Alexandre Grenier. After seven games the Utica Comets would emerge victorious, winning four games to three, and punching their ticket to the Western Conference Finals to face the offensively potent Grand Rapids Griffins.

As the series had been taken over by goaltenders, both Jacob Markstrom and Richard Bachman would be the scene stealers once again in the finale. For Bachman and the Barons, his performance was stout from the get-go. Stopping 26 shots across the first forty minutes of play gave us some terrifically scary moments. Yet Richard persevered, and really was the reason this game wasn’t 2-0 after the first two periods of play.

By comparison, Jacob Markstrom stopped 27 shots in the span of the first two periods. Yet his game would surge late as the Barons would become ultimately desperate to score.

The lone Alexandre Grenier goal came at the 7:11 mark of the third period long after each team had moments on the power play (three for OKC, two for Utica) that featured good scoring chances, but better goaltending, and careful blue line protection. The goal felt insurmountable as Bachman seemed human again. The Barons would pressure the puck for the remainder of the game, peppering Markstrom with thirteen third period shots. But somehow the Comets clogged the center of the ice, yet again, and shots were coming at a further distance with very few rebounds.

The Utica Comets would boldly emerge the victor. As two evenly matched teams lined themselves up to shake hands, the realization that the Barons season was over began to invade my senses. For the season was not just over, but so was the team.

We have known about the end of the Barons era in Oklahoma City for many months at this point, but I wasn’t ready for the emotional gut punch I felt when that final horn resounded. Dadgumit, when did I get soft?

The radio broadcast sign-off was professional, but emotional as Jim Byers said his farewell to fans, broadcast partners, and a squad he was so intimately tangled within. Even the normally stoic John Zondlo who produces the Barons radio show back in OKC turned to Dr. Seuss’ “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” quote while pushing back emotion.

This is a tough time for Oklahoma City hockey fans, and we know we aren’t the only team on the planet that has ever lost a club they loved. But boy it hits you in the feelers more than you think, and probably more than it should.

As we head towards the AHL offseason we will no doubt pay tribute to the fans and teams that we have loved throughout the years. And as we march closer to the summer months this blog will begin to take on a new shape, a new scope, a new presence that isn’t quite fully realized even at this point. You, the loyal reader, will be the first to know what that might be. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, congrats to the Barons on an incredible season. What a way to go out!

Fans Snuggle Up For Game 7, Davidson “Game Time Decision”

Photo via Utica Comets. All rights reserved.

So here we are. Game seven against the Utica Comets, and the Oklahoma City Barons still have hope. What can only be described as endurance, our beloved minor league hockey team from the Sooner state is on the cusp of yet another appearance in the Western Conference Finals of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

The good news is that the Barons are still alive, and fully capable of winning games in Utica. We know that. What we don’t know is if they can win two in a row. The ping-pong nature of this series probably points to two incredibly talented, yet incredibly even teams. If they were to play a best of twenty-one series, all things remaining the same, I would say we might have a stalemate at that point as well. That is the way the cookie crumbles.

So as the games march on, both teams remaining equal in appearance, the thing that changes is injury. Utica was able to overcome the loss of Archibald (a greasy forward), and the Barons have remained healthy until this point, but things might change tonight.

After leaving game six, following a blocked shot off the right foot, Brandon Davidson is a game time decision. Arguably the Barons most valuable defender, and certainly their most consistent, Davidson being out means that another comes in. And there are reasons why “another” was out in the first place.

It could be Martin Marincin, who has unfortunately been dreadful, but still very capable (we think, we hope, we pray). There is LaLeggia or Betker or Ludwig, well, really there is Marincin. That hand dealt to coach Gerry Fleming might be fine. But in a game seven I want Davidson, thus I’m hoping he is a game time YES!

No other roster changes as of morning skate for either squad, and you best believe that this one is going to be a barn burner.

The puck drops at 6:00pm, and hopefully by 9:00pm my tears aren’t dropping as well. Let’s do this, Barons, so that I don’t have to eat mountains of Ben & Jerry’s “Cherry Garcia” to cope with my feelings.

OKC Wins Game Six, Bachman To Thank

It was a do or die, a put up or shut up, a win and you’re in kind of night for the Oklahoma City Barons. Down three games to two, and playing Monday in Utica, the uncomfortable feeling you are owning is widespread among Barons fans. They seemed dominate two games ago, and then defeated the next. Utica appeared too high a hurdle to overcome with their sturdy defense, sneaky offense, and magnificent goaltending.

But the Barons would impress on Monday. They would score early. They would score late. They would survive. And the ending would sustain the Barons for at least another day.

With the slightly tweaked roster for both clubs in tact (Musil in, Marincin out for example), it would be a mainstay that would score first. Brad Hunt, with the rare backhand jab, would rattle in the game’s first goal, and the lead for the Barons. The goal was a product of the “shoot first, think second” mantra that OKC has attempted to use on Jacob Markstrom.

The visiting team would cling to the lead for the entirety of the first period. The penalties were few (one for each team), and in a rare instance the Barons out shot the Comets thirteen to nine. The period would end with a carried-over four on four situation.

A Jordan Oesterle holding penalty in the opening minutes gave the Comets a chance to tie the game. Thrice Bachman was massive on the power play as the Barons kill unit looked wobbly.

Things would get a little chippy, but both teams would keep their tempers disciplined.

The Barons would squander a golden power play chance after Connor Jones parked himself in front of Markstrom who was cross-checked in return. The puck cycled well, but the shots just didn’t happen.

Utica would appear to score late in the period, but it was ruled a no-goal after the referee claimed Bachman was interfered with.

Oklahoma City only managed to shoot the puck three times, but they remained in the lead after two periods thanks in part to Richard Bachman.

The third period was heated for the Comets as Bachman continued to make impressive save after impressive save. The Barons defense took good care of the puck, while the forwards played an optimistically appropriate game.

With roughly twelve minutes remaining Ryan Hamilton would put OKC up 2-0 when an icing call was waved off, and he was able to juggle a puck that came off the inboards. It was a timely goal, no doubt, but it also frustrated the Comets. All good things.

The Comets would score their first of the game on Bachman as a shot from the point would squeeze through his equipment. To the side of the net, Sven Baertschi poked at the puck, knocking it in. The Barons would nurse a one goal lead with five minutes remaining.

Markstrom would be pulled for an extra skater, and the Comets pelted the Barons net with ferocity. Defense was tight. Goaltending was unbelievable. And a late Kellen Jones block of a point blank shot would give OKC the 2-1 victory.

The series, now tied at three, would need a game seven to decide a victor. It will be played Wednesday night in Utica.

Martin Marincin Out, David Musil Back In For Game Six

The Utica Comets are leading the Oklahoma City Barons 3 games to two in the Western Conference semis. As the time until puck drop slowly inches our way, some news has come about that involves defensive changes. You aren’t going to like it, but you probably expected it.

You might recall that Musil was benched for Darnell Nurse in recent days. His terribleness wasn’t nearly as bad as it first appeared, and certainly Marincin is the one who has been playing some really confusing hockey of late. Bad passing, questionable posturing, and a massive inability to contain his own blue-line have led us to this moment. It hurts, because Marincin had been on the up in the first round of the playoffs against the Rampage. The second round, and when compared to the stoutness of the Utica prospects, Marincin has been in the weeds. Woof.

The puck drops tonight, as I’m planning summer camp for 50+ children between 3rd and 5th grade. My mind isn’t right, but that might be the best way to watch what could be the final OKC Barons game in history. Fingers crossed.

Four Power Play Goals Lifts OKC Past Utica, Series Tied

Photo by Steven Christy

The series is tied 2-2 after Wednesday night. How this happened is quite the thing to behold, and for once fans were correct in clamoring for a different approach to the lineup.

After the first two games of the series, where only a combined six goals were scored in eleven periods, game three was a bit more offense-friendly. If offense-friendly is how we explain game three then game four was a move-in-we-are-getting-married-and-having-a-baby-after-knowing-each-other-for-three-months type of explanation.

The Barons scored seven goals, four on the power play, to lift them past the Utica Comets on Wednesday evening. The 7-4 final would tie the series at two games a piece.

In short, the addition of Kyle Platzer, Greg Chase, and most certainly Darnell Nurse helped “shake things up” enough that Utica couldn’t return with a clear answer. They tried, and likely will adjust accordingly in tonight’s game five, but for now they have been hit by a two-by-four between the eyes. Those three players would come in for Mitch Moroz, C.J. Stretch, and David Musil. The changes were potent.

Jujhar Khaira would score twice, Darnell Nurse would earn three helpers, Brad Hunt would snatch four points, and Richard Bachman would again face 40+ shots only allowing four to wobble through.

The personnel changed, as did the mindset of the players, but what really looked sharp was the power play. Going 4/6 on any given night will almost 100% of the time earn you a victory. As Utica took penalty after penalty the Barons kept barreling down on them. Two key power play goals in the third period really sunk the Comets halfway through the final frame.

The scoring for OKC began as Darnell Nurse jumped into the play and assisted on a Jujhar Khaira goal, his second of the season. Utica would respond, as they are want to do, nearly five minutes later. The first period would end with Utica doubling the OKC Barons shots totals (14-7), but with a one goal tie.

A late first period cross check carried the power play opportunity over to the second, and Andrew Miller would give his team the lead again in the first minute and change. Utica would respond over the next ten minutes with two goals of their own, one on the power play and one at even strength, to overtake OKC momentarily. But Oklahoma City would follow suit by scoring a goal with an extra skater and another at even strength to round out a wild, goal-filled second period. Matt Ford and then Jujhar Khaira, earning his second goal of the evening, would play the role of heroes as they would give their team a 4-3 lead with one period remaining.

The dam would continue to break for the Barons offense as they would score back-to-back power play goals via Ryan Hamilton and Brandon Davidson to extend the lead to 6-3. The four unanswered goals would force Utica to pull Jacob Markstrom early for an extra attacker. It paid off momentarily as Utica’s Brendan Gaunce earned his third goal of the postseason with under four minutes to play. But Brad Hunt, saucering a shot 150+ feet away, put the goal totals at 7 for OKC on an empty netter with less than two minutes on the clock.

The final horn would sound, and the dominate performance in the back-half by the Barons game was impressive. The 7-4 victory over the Utica Comets would tie the series at two games. Game five will be played Thursday night in OKC. Interesting.

Oklahoma City Barons Lineup:

R.Hamilton-Williams-Chase
Winquist-Platzer-Miller
K.Jones-C.Jones-Ford
C.Hamilton-Khaira-Winchester

Davidson-Hunt
Simpson-Nurse
Marincin-Oesterle

Bachman

Scratches: Bunz, Rimmer, Betker, Pageau, Musil, Pinizzotto, Stretch, Ewanyk, Kessy, Ludwig, LaLeggia, Moroz, Yakimov, Gernat, Lain

Nurse, Platzer, & Chase Enter Game Four Lineup

Photo by Steven Christy

The Oklahoma City Barons needed to do something before it was too late. After the loss on Monday night, OKC is turning towards the young ‘uns to help make things a bit more difficult for Utica to combat.

Announced today, Darnell Nurse, Kyle Platzer, and Greg Chase will all enter tonight’s lineup against the Utica Comets.

 

Gerry Fleming semi-confirmed via Oilers Now yesterday that Nurse wold be in, and that they needed to tweak the roster to “give us chances to win”. All additions are good, sound choices.

Greg Chase, I really like. He is an unfraid forward. Darnell Nurse, if anything, gives Utica something different from the defensive side of the puck. Kyle Platzer, although not the most obvious choice, was on a bit of a roll in four regular season games with OKC scoring twice and earning an assist. I like the changes. I just hope it isn’t too late.

Game four, with Utica leading 2-1, is tonight in OKC. The puckening commences at 7:00pm. If there were ever an important game, THIS feels like one of those.

Oklahoma City Blazers Have Piece of History Returned

As the chapter of the Oklahoma City Barons comes to an end (and hopefully it’ll still continue for a while longer), Prodigal has been taking the opportunity to clear out their storage rooms. Last night, in quite a surprising turn of events, Prodigal began selling their old stocks of Oklahoma City Blazers memorabilia and pieces from the locker room (with proceeds being donated to Hockey Ministries).

Some of the more interesting items were wood-crafted logos that were hung inside the Blazers locker room over the years. Needless to say, they were some of the first things to be sold.

With the Oklahoma City Blazers being revived in the Junior-III Western States Hockey League, one fan took the opportunity to buy one of the pieces and donate it to the team.

From the Blazers Facebook:

The Oklahoma City Blazers had a piece of their history returned today when Booster Club President Samantha Comes delivered the “B Shield” logo that hung in the original Blazers locker room for years. The 3-d wood logo is one of 4 Blazer locker room logo’s created and hung proudly in the Blazers dressing room anywhere from 2002-2009.

The surprise gift from the Comes family was bought ironically enough at last nights Oklahoma City Barons Playoff game vs Utica. Prodigal and the Barons had a surprise liquidation sale of Blazers jerseys, souvenirs and memorabilia including the hanging logo.

“When I walked in and saw it I couldn’t believe it was for sale. I told my husband to go and get my credit card, I know where this belongs. I had to get it,” said Comes.

The B shield 3-d logo Comes had purchased was one of two of these particular same logo’s, however, this is the one that was of most significance. This is the one that was hung in the hall, only a few feet from the players entrance to the ice.

“It was the last thing you saw when you left the dressing room and the first thing when you entered,” said former player and now president and head coach of the reincarnated Blazers, Tyler Fleck. “The stick marks where guys gave it a good luck tap before the game are still there. I know some of them are mine. This really means a lot not only to me but to everyone who walked down that hallway.”

The four 3-d logo’s created were made by either Kent Johnson, long time Blazer supporter and owner of Massive Graphics in Norman, or Brandon “Brando” Rose. The Blazers former equipment manager.

Fleck was able to track down one of the signs, the other B-shield logo, this past summer during the renovation of the new Blazers dressing room. Fleck was contacted by Johnson who had one of the 2 of this particular logo. It was the one that hung in the Blazers office not the “hallway b-shield”.

Comes realized what she had come across and knew exactly where it belonged.

“I went back to get the sign after the game and I asked the lady working there if I could grab it. She said “That’s Your’s?” and I said yes and I’m taking it home,”Comes explained. “The worker said “You’re taking it to your house?” and I said not exactly, I’m taking it to it’s HOME. It’s going back to the Blazers where it belongs.”

When the coveted sign finally returned to Blazers dressing room Tuesday afternoon, Fleck, assistant coach Zac Desjardins, GM Brian Chandler and Blazers Ice Centre Manager Andrew Magerkurth wasted no time mounting the 70 pound wooden structure to the wall.

“This is a logo that guys fought for, bled for and cried for. The Blazer brand is something that is etched into the hearts of Oklahoman’s everywhere. Everyone recognizes it and it’s become a part of who we are,” said Fleck. “We are damn proud to be Blazers. There were hundred’s of players that tapped that sign for a little extra luck on their way by. When someone recognizes that and goes out of their way to bring back a piece of history like this to where it rightfully belongs, it’s unreal. It just means a lot.”

The other two 3-d wood logo’s were apparently sold at the Barons game on Monday. One of which is the cardinal and gold “Blazers B” logo and the other is the flaming BLAZERS logo which had been dubbed the “Hot Wheels” Blazer logo. These two others also hung proudly in the locker room in different spaces over the years.

“I’ve come to find that people associate Blazers hockey with happiness and good times. We weren’t just a hockey team or a brand. We were a family that extended well beyond the dressing room, well beyond the arena. A family that extended to every corner of the state,” Fleck added. “A family with a great big heart that I am proud to be a part of.”

Be sure to check out the pictures from the Blazers Facebook page.